Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Former Brookwood head coach Rob English is in his 23rd year as a professional baseball scout, the last 11 with the Boston Red Sox. The 74-year-old Duluth resident has cut back to a part-time schedule, but remains active in keeping an eye on some of Georgia's top baseball talent.
As one of the honorary coaches for the 2013 Georgia Dugout Club All-Star festivities this weekend in Columbus, Rob English will be amidst very familiar surroundings.
Well, sort of.
No, the 74-year-old Duluth resident won't be back in uniform or in a dugout for the first time since stepping down as Brookwood's head baseball coach to enter professional scouting in 1990.
"It's been a long time," English said with a laugh. "My first years of scouting with the (Atlanta) Braves, we did a lot of tryout camps and I'd be in a uniform, but not coaching any games. It's been a really long time. I'm not going to do it this time, either. I'm just going to be there in person. The coaches will do all the coaching."
Not that English, who spent more than 20 years coaching high school ball at Brookwood and DeKalb County's Briarcliff High School, couldn't teach the All-Stars a few things about the game.
It's just that after spending the past 23 years as a scout, first with the Braves and now with the Boston Red Sox organization, he's more in his element with a pad, pen, stopwatch or radar gun in his hand.
And while English reduced his workload and travel schedule by going to a part-time schedule scouting three years ago, he still enjoys getting out to a field and getting a look at the future of baseball.
"To be honest with you, I never missed coaching because I was still involved in baseball, just at a different level," said English, who started the Brookwood program when the school opened in 1981 and guided the Broncos to a 172-74 record, including the 1986 Class AAAAA state championship, over the next eight seasons. "Being a full-time scout is a much tougher job today than it used to be with computers and everything like that. Plus, the game has evolved into a year-round thing.
"Now, I go to whatever game I want to go to. I take a little pressure off (Red Sox area scout for Georgia Brian Moehler). High school and colleges start in late February. So, I'm at a game just about every day that the weather permits until the draft. And there are periods (when) there won't be anything going on, like now. A lot of summer stuff is kicking off, but I don't do a lot of that anymore -- maybe a few (national tournaments) at East Cobb (baseball), and then I shut it down (until next season)."
Though one might expect the next week to be plenty busy for English with the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft beginning next Thursday.
But as he points out, that's not the case, especially now that he's gone to a part-time schedule.
"Draft day, I won't have any communication with club," English said. "I'll just sit by the computer. It's a guessing game. Who's going to be taken when? Sometimes, you get some surprises."
Surprises or not, English said there are few things more gratifying to a scout than having the organization which he works for select and sign a player he has recommended to it -- except maybe when that player makes it to the big leagues.
He likes to joke that he started his scouting career with the Braves the same year the club took Chipper Jones with the first pick in the draft, though he never had a chance to scout the future Hall of Famer.
Still, English has had several players he recommend make it to the show, including such well-known names as St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright and former Braves reliever John Rocker.
"You almost think of them as your own sons," English said. "You have that kind of a pride. You know on any given day, there are only 750 of them in the world in major league baseball. Even if (just) to get cup of tea, it's an accomplishment (to play in the majors).
"Wainwright was steady through his career. John Rocker was my first in the majors. Most of them very appreciative to have had the opportunity. All you can do is give them the opportunity. I'm extremely proud of Brandon Moss out of Loganville (High School). He just made it up with the (Oakland) A's and has worked so hard. He struggled with (the Boston organization), and was up and down. But last year, he got the opportunity, and it clicked. You love to see those kind of success stories."
Also among those success stories are players who played their high school ball in metro Atlanta, and Gwinnett County in particular -- most notably, Duluth grad Nick Green, who has spent parts of eight seasons in the majors with eight different clubs, most recently the Miami Marlins.
And he can't help but marvel about how big a hotbed of baseball talent baseball has become throughout his days as a coach and a scout.
"Georgia has come on as one of the top states," English said. "Over the years, California was No. 1, then Florida and Texas. Now, Georgia is right up there in the hunt. We've got a tremendous amount of Georgia players in pros. I always attribute it the 1991 season of the Braves, when they went from worst to first. That really inspired baseball in the state of Georgia."
Baseball continues to inspire English, and even though he has cut down on his work schedule, he has no intention of stopping completely any time soon.
"It comes down to two things -- my health and whether club wants me to continue," English said. "My health hasn't been best in world (recently), but I'm able to deal with it."